Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion and Australian Aboriginal leaders are incensed at a “racist” cartoon attacking Indigenous children and their fathers, published by The Australian newspaper.
The cartoon, by Bill Leak, depicted a police officer holding an Aboriginal boy by the scruff of his shirt while talking to the boy’s Aboriginal father, who held a beer can.
“You’ll have to sit down and talk to your son about personal responsibility,” the officer says.
To which the father replies: “Yeah righto what’s his name then?”.
The cartoon was published on Thursday – the same day as National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day.
Hey Bill Leak, the 1950's called – they want their racism back.😡 pic.twitter.com/uFd5sFoHis
— I H Laking (@IHLaking) August 4, 2016
Mr Scullion labelled the cartoon as “racist”, saying he was appalled by the publication.
“Although Australian cartoonists have a rich tradition of irreverent satire, there is absolutely no place for depicting racist stereotypes,” Mr Scullion said.
Two prominent Aboriginal leaders told The New Daily that they found the cartoon to be abhorrent. Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency Muriel Bamblett said she was sick of being made to feel less than human by some people.
“There is no merit in putting us down and making us less in the eyes of other Australians,” Ms Bamblett told The New Daily. “Why do people think they can do this to us?”.
“People are horrified, when does the barrage that Aboriginal people receive stop?”.
The cartoon came just under two weeks after ABC’s Four Corners program uncovered the terrible treatment of Aboriginal boys at Don Dale Youth Detention facility in the Northern Territory.
Following the program – which showed boys being tear gassed, stripped and assaulted – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called a royal commission into the centre.
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) national director Andrew Meehan told The New Daily he was “disgusted”.
“It was clearly racist and it reminded me of the sorts of cartoons we saw in the 1920s and 1930s in national newspapers,” Mr Meehan said. “Coming off the back of Don Dale’s traumatic imagery, I think it was a patently dreadful decision to publish it.
“We know that the health and wellbeing impacts of racism are significant. There are detrimental impacts of this sort of racism on Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people.”
The Australian defends cartoon
The Australian’s editor-in-chief Paul Whittaker said in a statement that the cartoon was justified because “too often, too many people skirt around the root causes and tough issues”.
He quoted Indigenous activists Noel Pearson and Marcia Langton who recently advocated for Aboriginal people to take charge of their destiny.
“Bill Leak’s confronting and insightful cartoons force people to examine the core issues in a way that sometimes reporting and analysis fail to do,” Mr Whittaker said.
— Allan Clarke (@AllanJClarke) August 4, 2016
Ms Bamblett took a very different view.
“I’ve heard reports that a lot of people that write for The Australian, and have done good stories about Aboriginal people, are very disappointed,” she said. “They need to stand up to him [Bill Leak].”
It isn’t the first time this particular cartoonist has done work deemed to be racist toward Aboriginals. New Matilda published a piece on Thursday titled: “The Great Racist Works Of Cartoonist Bill Leak”.
It showed three other cartoons by Leak which addressed issues of domestic violence and assault in Aboriginal communities. However the article stated that Leak had “done some quite pro-Aboriginal cartoons in the past”.
The New Daily attempted to contact Bill Leak, but was unable to reach him.